Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

In a floor speech honoring the nation's federal employees, Sen. Kaufman applauds Christine Spicer for her work at the Department of Labor

September 9, 2009

Mr. KAUFMAN. Mr. President, I rise once again to speak about one of our Nation's great Federal employees. All of us here, along with our colleagues in the House, have returned from a busy work period. I know we, like all Americans, appreciate the extra day off we had on Monday to rest and recharge, to spend time with family, and to enjoy a barbecue. It is important, though, not to lose sight of what Labor Day represents.

America was founded on the belief that if you work hard, you can achieve your dream. When American workers set themselves to a task, no challenge is too great.

Since the 19th century, Labor Day has served as an opportunity to appreciate those who have made our economy the strongest in the world. Even with the challenges we face on Wall Street and on Main Street, I remain confident in our economy precisely because of our great workers.

American workers built the canals and railroads that fueled the westward expansion of our early years. They labored in those first industrial factories, weaving textiles, smelting iron, and manufacturing new products. Our workers electrified America's cities and made possible our soaring skylines.

Whenever they were called upon to serve, they laid down their tools and took up arms to defend liberty at home and overseas.

Today, our workers produce microchips, complex machine parts, and quality products sold in markets worldwide. I know that American workers will continue to excel as we transition to a green economy.

The history of labor in our country can be told through the stories of Americans who have worked hard because they dream of providing a decent life for themselves and their families.

The great labor leader Samuel Gompers, when asked what motivated American workers to organize for better pay and conditions, said:

We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; ..... in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.            

It took American workers many decades to win fair wages and safe working conditions. Today, the dedicated employees of the Department of Labor continue to ensure that American workers are safe, treated fairly, and have access to employment opportunities. This also includes a commitment to protecting workers' hard-won benefits.

The men and women of the Department's Plan Benefits Security Division engage in legal proceedings to make certain that employees' rights under retirement income security legislation are upheld. It is a busy office, and its attorneys and staff work on behalf of our Nation's labor force and retirees.

On July 4, 2006, Christine Spicer, who had worked as a secretary in the division for 25 years, suffered a debilitating stroke. It left her hearing and sight impaired and unable to walk. Unable to perform the office tasks she had done for a quarter of a century, Christine could have chosen to retire on disability.

However, she was determined to return to work and keep serving the public. Christine engaged in a difficult course of physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She returned to work in 2007, and now serves as the lead secretary for the division chief--a job entailing great responsibility.

Despite lingering problems with speech and difficulty walking, Christine oversees the division's payroll system, personnel paperwork, and a number of special assignments in addition to her secretarial role. She has been cited by her colleagues as disciplined and cheerful, and she is truly one of the Labor Department's unsung heroes.

The employees of the Department of Labor continually serve American workers by safeguarding their right to a living wage and providing what our dear friend, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, called ``hope that the price of their employment'' is not ``an unsafe workplace and a death at an earlier age.''

I call on my colleagues and on all Americans to join me in honoring Christine Spicer and all of the outstanding public servants at our Department of Labor.

Print this Page E-mail this Page